MONTREAL – Thirty-one people were found dead in less than a month in a nursing home in Montreal, at least five confirmed people infected with coronavirus – a powerful Canadian emblem of how nursing homes are among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
In the United States, 17 bodies were recently discovered in a long-term care facility in New Jersey, among 68 residence-related deaths, 26 confirmed as coronavirus cases. And it was in a long-term care facility in Kirkland, Washington, that the Americans first saw the horrors to come after residents fell ill with Covid-19 in late February.
The phenomenon has also been observed across Europe. In Spain, soldiers sent to disinfect retirement homes have found abandoned and even dead people in their beds. Italy, Britain and France have acknowledged that their official statistics ignore many deaths from the virus in long-term care facilities.
The deaths in Canada were discovered late last week at Residence Herron, a private home for the elderly in Montreal, after local health officials alarmed by the shortage of staff and the spread of the coronavirus to the home, have taken control of the residence.
They found dehydrated residents lying listlessly in bed, without food for days, with feces oozing from their diapers.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 32-year nursing career,” said Loredana Mule, a nurse from the team. “It was horrible – there was not enough food to feed people, the stench could have killed a horse. “
After leaving the house, she said, she collapsed in her car and cried.
A skeleton of two nurses was left to look after a private residence with nearly 150 beds, she said. The rest of the staff fled in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic, leaving patients, some paralyzed or suffering from other chronic illnesses, to fend for themselves.
By announcing the death on Saturday, François Legault, the Premier of Quebec, said there appeared to be “gross negligence”.
The Montreal police, the Quebec Ministry of Health and the the coroner’s office in the province has initiated inquiries into the home. Officers from the Montreal Police Major Crimes Unit sifted through the evidence, confiscated the files and questioned the employees.
Autopsies of the dead are also expected, although families of relatives have expressed concern that they will never learn the truth about the number of residents who have died from the virus since many bodies were cremated.
“How is it possible that so many body bags left this place and no one raised the alarm? Asked Mrs. Mule.
After discovering the deaths at the Herron, the Quebec Ministry of Health this week inspected 40 private seniors’ residences, and Mr. Legault called volunteers to fill the staffing shortages in the residences. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that Quebec officials have asked the federal government to provide assistance for its overcrowded nursing homes.
Quebec is the Canadian province most affected by the coronavirus, with 15,857 cases and 630 deaths. Health officials say that retirement homes account for about half of all deaths in Quebec.
Mr. Legault blamed Herron’s management for the disaster, saying that after the residence was informed last month that a patient had tested positive for the virus, she refused to cooperate with the regional health authority, l ” requiring a court order and delaying intervention. .
By the time a team of health workers arrived on March 29, the coronavirus had already invaded.
Résidence Herron is owned by a Quebec real estate company, Katasa, which owns six other retirement residences. A company spokesperson declined to comment on the allegations of negligence.
But Katherine Chowieri, whose father, Samir Chowieri, is the president of Katasa and who is a director of the company, denied the negligence of the local media, telling them that she criticized the health authority for not having held account for calls for help from the residence while staff remained in the midst of a shortage of protective equipment.
Patrizia Di Biase-Leone learned on Tuesday that her mother, Antonietta Pollice, who turned 97 on March 11 and has dementia, tested positive for the virus. She said the residence had clouded her mother’s condition, even though she suffered from symptoms such as diarrhea, dehydration and hallucinations.
“Of course, we are seriously concerned about our mom,” she said. “She is emaciated and loses the will to live. We don’t get any cooperation. What are we doing? Call the cops?
Résidence Herron’s brilliant website boasts a nutritionist for personalized meal plans, a café bistro, a hairdresser and full-time nursing staff for her elderly patients.
But families of residents said in interviews that for several years they had seen their loved ones deprived of basic necessities such as diapers, exercise, proper hygiene and healthy meals, despite a monthly cost of 3000 to 10,000 Canadian dollars to stay there.
When the coronavirus spread to the home, they said, they struggled desperately to get information about their loved ones, while their calls to test their loved ones for the virus were ignored.
This is not the first time that Herron’s services have come under scrutiny. Last year, a report from the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services warned that palliative home care was lacking.
In 1981, Mr. Chowieri, the owner of Residence Herron, was convicted of drug trafficking, serving approximately 15 months in prison. A year later, he was found guilty of fraud. In 1994, a retirement home he owned was investigated by the national police for money laundering. And in 2002, he was fined $ 125,000 for tax evasion.
Frédéric Lepage, company spokesperson, said that Samir Chowieri’s criminal record was struck off in 2014 due to good behavior.
Leane Conti, whose mother, Carole Stewart, 79, is partially paralyzed and has been bedridden at the Herron Residence for two years, said staff repeatedly refused to remove her mother from her bed to bathe her properly, which resulted in leg and foot infections.
She said she was reprimanded by the residence for her mother “urinating too much and using too many diapers.”
After her mother fell with a fever in late March and was sent to a nearby hospital, Ms. Conti said she finally learned from the hospital that there was a case of coronavirus at the residence.
Ms. Stewart was returned to the Herron, where Ms. Conti said she was not quarantined, pending the results of the tests. She has since tested positive and been hospitalized.
“When I learned there were 31 bodies in less than a month at the Herron, I was shocked but not surprised,” she said.